Sunday, August 3, 2008

Keeping Cool and ESP

Most people enjoy taking personality tests. You get to select desirable and undesirable options and then at the end you are usually told the results and find what larger category you fit into. What you are finding out really is just what mood you are in when you take that test. Quite often you could take the same test tomorrow and get different results. And even if you get the same results you are only finding out that when you take that test you are in a certain mood. So what? You are probably not really measuring any long term characteristics. Nor are personality tests particularly deep, in that you could fake the answers if you want.

Realistically the personality tests are by no means perfect. They attempt to measure what a person feels about a certain type of experience. They offer a wide spectrum of possible opinions and attitudes ask you to select one. Then the answers are given a number value and a conclusion is drawn as to where you stand on some scale. The subjects’ attitudes and opinions may indicate where they are on the sociability, creativity, conformity to social standards, etc. Some tests only reveal two groups of people, such as: you are above average or below average in the given area, such as creativity. Or they may show where you stand in comparison with the group on any one to ten scales. The person may be high on some scales and low on others. If you are highly creative you may be low on the social conformity.

Even though generally personality tests have limited value they could be very useful to the parapsychologist. Because as we study those occasional flashes of ESP we ARE concerned with what mood a person it in at that time. We assume that they are not always in the mood for ESP or we would all be getting psychic impressions all the time. So it can be most useful to take these personality tests along with ESP tests and compare the results.

The procedure is to divide the test results into two groups; one that has an above-average score in some personality trait and the other that has a below-average score. Then they reshuffled the papers and separated again, this time into two groups: one that has above chance scores on the psi tests and the other that has merely chance. Then they try to see if there is an unusual number who are in both the above chance-psi-scores group and one or another of the personality traits they have tested. It is then possible to see how these personality traits are related to psychic ability.

The standard card guessing tests are often used. They were first used at Duke University by Dr. J. B. Rhine and his associates. These tests were the first to impress the scientific community with the existence of psi. Even though we have gone far beyond these tests today, we still owe them a great deal. Today precognition of targets that a computer will randomly select gives consistently high results; and subjects that have been hypnotically training are also impressing even the skeptical.

But for the parapsychology lab that must work on a budget, the old pack of 25 cards (five each of five faces) is still is popular. Sometimes, tables of random numbers serve the purpose selecting the target cards, these are arranged on a target paper. The deck itself may really be collecting dust on the shelf or the back of some drawer.

Keeping cool

One area that was studied was irritability. Some people are very irritable and the least little thing bothers them. Others will remain calm if the world were falling apart around them. Dr. J. Fraser Nicole and Dr. Betty Humphrey reported the results when they compared two test results. One was a clairvoyant test. The other was designed to find out how easily person becomes annoyed.

If they score high, they get annoyed easily, as if the subjects scores low, he doesn't get annoyed. The group who scored below average on this scale was above average and above chance on the clairvoyant test. The degree to which this was true is such that if tests were given 1000 times this result would only be expected 26 times for the P value (probability) was .026.

When a result is less than .05 it is considered “marginally significant." If it is below .01 it is “significant.” So .026 is something more than marginally significant. However, when a test result is in this degree of significance the required degree of .01 can usually be achieved by repeated tests. Most learned journals require at least .05 p – value before they will publish the paper. When testing psychic ability the advantage goes to well funded researchers who can afford to test large numbers of subjects. They can get those rare results that are highly significant: .01 or .0001, etc.

So in the case of the irritability test Dr. Nicol and Humphy summarize this part of their results, ”The evidence favoring the hypothesis that ESP is a correlate ( of low irritability ) .. is good."

In order to understand these results better we should remember something about the nature of that great mass of knowledge that psychics must tune into; the psi-unknown. An encounter with it would connect you with information from every source; everything and every mind. It is very complicated and would be confusing to face this thing, if a person were unprotected by his ability to feel at ease in spite of annoying things. So psychics are not easily annoyed.
In my book Operation Blue Light: My Secret Life among Psychic Spies I quote from some declassified papers in the National Security Archive at George Washington University. Even back in 1952 the CIA analyst who wrote the request for funds saw the value of these personality tests in understanding who would be of value to the CIA “It is quite possible,” he wrote, “that some of these (personality) types might be related to ESP ability.” So it was that Subproject 136 MKULTRA-ESP Research, was born .


Nicol, J. F., Humphrey, B.W. 1955. The repeatability problem in ESP personality research. The Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research 49: 125-156.

Subproject 136 MKULTRA-ESP Research, CIA behavior control experiments collection, National Security Archive, George Washington University.(1952)

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